At a press conference today in Washington Square Park, the New York Civil Liberties Union kicked off its Wheel of Justice NY campaign to highlight New York State’s broke public defense system. The campaign – complete with a travelling Wheel of Fortune-style game that can also be played online – calls on Governor Cuomo to end the state’s failure to provide effective attorneys to poor New Yorkers accused of crimes, and settle an NYCLU lawsuit on the matter going to trial this October. The trial will be the first of its kind in the nation. In the United States, you have the right to an attorney, which the state must provide if you can’t afford one. But New York has been ignoring this responsibility for more than 50 years. Poor New Yorkers go before the courts undefended and alone every day in many parts of the state. They languish in jail and lose their jobs, homes and families in the process. “Each day in courtrooms around the state New Yorkers are denied their right to meaningful representation just because they are poor,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “The Wheel of Justice demonstrates just how dire and destructive the consequences of our crippled criminal justice system are. We invite all New Yorkers, including Governor Cuomo and members of the legislature, to take a spin and see firsthand how much real people lose because the state ignores its obligation to provide attorneys to the poor.” The #WheelofJusticeNY – a brightly-colored, 7-foot-tall carnival wheel – is traveling across the state, with stops planned in Manhattan, Syracuse, Long Island, Albany and even Yankee Stadium. The NYCLU is inviting New Yorkers to spin the wheel and find out how justice is a gamble, and how much their neighbors and members of their community lose because of the state’s broken public defense system. All the game outcomes are based on the true stories of real New Yorkers whose lives have been impacted and even ruined because they did not have access to adequate legal representation. Additionally, New Yorkers from across the state can join the movement for reform right from their own computer or mobile device at www.WheelofJusticeNY.org where they can:
- Spin the Wheel of Justice online and share their results;
- Contact Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders to demand that the state fix its broken public defense system; and
- Follow the Wheel as it makes its rounds, and join the social media frenzy on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter via #WheelofJusticeNY.